Author: Ron Graham
A Disciple’s Behaviour
—Painful, shameful, or gainful?
Most people would agree that a Christian’s behaviour or conduct is important. So in this lesson, we partly analyse the conduct of Christ’s disciples. Their behaviour is important because people observe it —and judge Christ accordingly. Our behaviour should be a living example, the message of Christ on exhibit.
1 Some Behaviour is Painful.
We are given this challenge: "Let everything you say be good and constructive, so that your words will be gracious to those who hear them" (Ephesians 4:29). It seems reasonable that if our words should be like that, so should our deeds.
However, we all know people who say things or do things that make us feel so uncomfortable it hurts. Of course some of them cannot help it, and we try to hide our feelings for their sake. But most people can help it.
I'm talking about people who constantly whine and complain; people who play practical jokes that are funny only to them; people who argue and dispute just for the sake of it; people who ask inquisitive and personal questions; people who intrude into one's personal space and make unwanted physical contact; people who are know‑it‑alls and make you feel ignorant; people who keep you waiting far too long or don't even turn up at all.
The list goes on and on, and I'm sorry if I didn't mention the particular painful behaviour that you have suffered. The point is that disciples of Jesus should conduct themselves in a manner that is good, gentle, constructive, and gracious —such that people feel peace rather than pain.
2 Some Behaviour is Shameful.
Being a pain is not commendable, but many people do far worse than that, and their conduct is done in darkness, secrecy, and deceit. Paul says, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them [by the light]. For it is shameful even to mention those things which people do in secret" (Ephesians 5:8-13).
Paul does mention various "works of the flesh which are evident" (Galatians 5:19-21), however he also understands that many people do such things in secret, and he says, "We have renounced secret and shameful ways" (2Corinthians 4:2).
3 Christian Behaviour is Gainful.
However, let's get to the positive. The oldest book in the Bible poses the question, "Is it any gain to the Almighty if you make your ways blameless?" (Job 22:1-3). In other words, is God so remote, unique, and independent, that he gains nothing by the good behaviour of mere mortals?
Well, we mortals are meant "to be filled with the fruits of righteousness by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:9-11). If people conduct themselves such that they "bring glory to Christ" (2Corinthians 8:23), then God gains. Conversely, when disciples of Christ behave badly, the aims of Jesus Christ suffer much loss.
Our behaviour needs to bring gain to Christ. Now the common idea is that Christ gains from us “doing his work”, namely spreading the gospel. This is true, but that's only a narrow idea of what is gainful to our Lord. We should harness all our behaviour, not just “the work”, to bring gain to our Saviour. Here are some attributes of our conduct that are gainful.
The old Bible phrase, "faith, hope, and charity" means faith, hope, and love (1Corinthians 13:13). In the Bible, charity is not only giving alms to the poor, it is love with understanding and helpful deeds in every circumstance.
The first Christians "had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need" (Acts 2:44-45). "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
In one of his many thankful moments, Paul wrote, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has been able to flourish... not that I seek to gain the gift itself, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account" (Philippians 4:10,17). The acts and attitudes of genuine carers yield profit for those cared for, the carers themselves, and Christ.
There are people whose conduct is destructive, spoiling, depleting. Others behave in a manner that is constructive, edifying, profitable. Disciples of Christ should "make every effort to follow the things which make for peace, and by which one may edify another" (Romans 14:19)
A house cannot be built by the occasional hammering of a nail or laying of a brick. There needs to be continual and consistent effort. When good conduct is sporadic, unreliable, inconsistent, whatever is gained from it is quickly lost.
So scripture says, "Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we don't give up" (Galatians 6:9).
Jesus said, "When you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unprofitable servants: we have only done that which was our duty' (Luke 17:10). He meant, of course, that the price he paid for our redemption can never be repaid by our good conduct.
However our good conduct is not worthless to Christ. In the parable, the master (who represents Jesus) said to his slave (who represents the Christian), "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:23). So Jesus still sees value and gain in our good conduct and feels the loss when we behave badly.
So how can we ensure that Jesus will appreciate our behaviour as gainful for him and his kingdom? The answer is simple. We follow his example, walk in his footsteps, live as he lived, endure as he endured. Peter writes, "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" Peter then likens us to sheep following the Shepherd of our souls. (1Peter 2:21-25).